“Urbanesque”: Town Square, Street, Place …. But No Town

Urbanesque: Town Square, No Town

 “Urbanesque” – the perfect urban mix:
19th century urbanism with 20th century technology and commerce.

The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, 10 km south of Allentown (pop 100k), display  the design features of the cherished Small American Town, an icon of urbanism.
It has a Main Street, a town place and a town square in the midst of bucolic farmers fields.
The Main Street is a mixed realm of cars and pedestrians who arrive from the historic , classic but unkempt Main Street of Allentown. There is ample parking for peak shopping periods behind the stores.
A wide variety of stores, including  a Starbucks in the Square’s cetre are all part of chains.

An ideal urban world for upscale, contemporary living adaptet to the car culture, truck trnasport that has adopted the aesthetic of the small town. “Urbanesque” = style without the culture that supports it.

Urbanesque: Town Place, No Town  Town Place, No Town

Urbanesque: Main Street, No Town  Main Street, No town

“Eyes on Street” – Un-coded

In Pompeii, Italy and Mani, Greece, two streets more than a thousand years apart follow the same dis-urban code.

These two streets are good examples of urbanism: they are narrow; chiefly or only pedestrian;  have proportions and continuous wall for enclosure, and use natural, local materials for all surfaces that add strong texture and detail.

Both disobey a cardinal urbanist rule- eyes on the street. Not only the flanking hoouses have no porches, the ground floor is almost entirely opaque to the street; few, if any, very small windows set above the eye level to prevent eyes on the street LOOKING IN.
A coded, vernacular dis-urban practice(see articles by Besim Hakim). Mani photo by Doug Pollard.

New Urbanist cul-de-sac

Ideal New Urbanist Cul-de-Sac

A city neighbourhood displays a perfect New Urbanist cul-de-sac:
This 300-foot long street is built at very high density, being at a favourable location fronting a river. It evolved from an early suburb of the 30s to an urban extension of the 90s.
It respects the street by placing all parking underground. It is connected: it links to the next street via a garage exit and a path. Public transit passes at the entry of the cul-de-sac.
It has a mix of housing forms, types and range of accommodation sizes.
Some non-residential uses inhabit the street, of which residents  are only 3 blocks away from a main shopping street, reachable on foot, bike and car.
It sees only the traffic of its houses and apartments, no through traffic; rendering it quiet and safe.
This street is compact, connected, quiet, with mixed uses and varied housing types and with adjacent  open space; a prototype for a good urban street.
Urbanism comes in many guises – including an ideal a cul-de-sac.

New Urbanist Cul-de-sac

village in Mani, GreeceA Mediterrenean mountain village displays a perfect New Urbanist cul-de-sac:
It uses the street as a true public realm; the entire pavement is for walking, sitting, eating and socializing.
The street is compact and perfectly cosy, if somewhat messy and, in places, dilapitated. What it lacks in formal design it gives back  in delight.
It mixes housing and restaurant/coffee/bar shop with a home for the owner  above.
The little traffic that comes to this point ends here – no through destination.
Urbanism comes in many guises – sometimes in a cul-de-sac.
(Photo by Doug Pollard)

Fused Grid Worlds – Mutual discovery


 Looking around I realized that there exist other inhabited Fused Grid worlds

Hello Simtropolis!

 Players of SimCity 4 discovered the Fused Grid and are using it to build efficient cities that, apparently, work well, when the points are counted.

 Take a look at their work, full of good ideas of how to use the Fused Grid model to build good cities. Even within the confines of a game with limited library of buildings and elements to populate the space, the screenshots, particularly this one, still give a fairly realistic picture of how a neighbourhood and a district would work….. until the first subdivison is build in Alberta and the first city is built in China.


Pattern Language Threads and Fabric design


Among Christopher Alexander’s patterns, some deal with the conflict between car and pedestrian movement. Pattern 49, proclaims looped streets as the most suitable type at the neighbourhood scale followed by connected cul-de-sacs. Pattern 50 asserts that the T-Junctions are the safest type. Pattern 51 sets forth the idea of pedestrian-only streets and pattern 52 recommends a distinct network for pedestrians “where possible”.


Alexander’s invaluable collection of patterns did not propose a diagram of how these would come together in a layout of a neighbourhood or district, as did Le Corbusier (Ville Radieuse), Ebenezard Howard (Garden Cities), Clarence Perry (Neighbourhood Unit), Doxiadis (Ekistics), Frank Lloyd  Wright (Broadacre City).  This lack of a model increases freedom for their application but, unfortunately, also limits their application to sporadic and separate rather than regular and unified. The need that makes these individual patterns so valuable, to codify solutions that work, would also make their assembly into modules of combined patterns valuable. The connected cul-de-sac pattern below incorporates all the above Pattern Language solutions in one repeatable 40 acre module, almost like a computer programmer’s “plug –in”. (for variations on this model  see the Quadrants page, Districts page or the Gallery)


A Contemporary Urban Pattern